MISSOULA, Mont. – The Lewis-Clark State men’s basketball team came within eight points of defending Big Sky Conference champion Montana with 10:21 remaining in an exhibition game Thursday night at Dahlberg Arena, but the Grizzlies fought off the charge and went on to an 86-68 victory.
It was the first action for the Warriors since defeating Alberta-Augustana in back-to-back contests on Oct. 19-20 in Lewiston, and LCSC certainly gave the Griz, who lost to Wisconsin in the second round of the NCAA Tournament last March, something to think about on their home floor.
“What it really boils down to is that our guys competed really hard tonight, and that’s all we wanted to do,” Warrior coach Brandon Rinta said. “Every time we step out onto the court we’re trying to win, but what’s more important in these games is to get better, and I think we really did that tonight.”
Senior forwards Nick Fromm and P.J. Bolte had 16 points apiece for the Warriors, and Rinta was impressed with the play of his offense, especially against a high-caliber opponent.
“I think that it was pretty positive that even though we didn’t shoot it well from the 3-point line (2-for-11) and had more turnovers than we would like (14), we still scored 68 points against as good a defense as they have,” he said. “Our guys did a good job of getting it into our posts and playing off of them.”
After a pair of free throws by LCSC junior Joseph Moquino tied the score at 26 with 5:35 left in the first half, Montana embarked on a 20-5 run that spanned nearly seven minutes between the periods that gave the Griz a double-digit lead.
Montana’s Mathias Ward had seven of his 20 points during that run and was 7-for-9 from the field in the game.
Down 16 early in the second half, Lewis-Clark State fought back, getting the lead to as little as eight on Trey Sobotta’s 3-pointer with 10:40 remaining.
It was the first made triple of the evening for the Warriors, who missed their first seven from beyond the arc and finished the game just 2-for-11 from downtown. Conversely, Montana hit 10-from-24 from 3-point range, including 6-of-12 in the second half.
“It’s really tough with a team like Montana,” Rinta said. “You have to pick your poison. You try to stop them from scoring inside and hope they’re not hitting from outside, and tonight they were.”
Kareem Jamar had 19 of his game-high 26 points in the second half, including all four of his 3-pointers, and his shooting allowed the Griz to work the lead to as large as 21 points.
“They put some runs together like we knew they would, and I was real curious to see how we responded,” Rinta said. “No matter how big the margin got and no matter what was happening, we played the same way and our energy was the same. You find out a lot about yourselves when you play a team of that caliber, and we did some good things on both sides of the basketball.”
The Warriors return to the Activity Center on Tuesday when they host Walla Walla University at 7 p.m.